"Siete tutti belli" Welcome to the most interesting newsletter in the history of mozzarella and electricity, "Only In Italy!"
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Bologna - October 10, 2008 - Italy's best university is ranked 192nd after Bombay and Korea. La Sapienza and Bocconi not in top 200.
Is Bologna Learned or Lazy? The original Alma Mater seems to be growing old gracelessly, poised for relegation and worse off than the city's football team. Once, the university made the world think; now it makes you think only the worst. It's light years behind Harvard and Oxford, which we already knew, and way behind Europe in research, as it has been for years. But now it has slipped behind Hong Kong, Moscow, Bombay, the Chinese and others.
"Whatever happened to the University of Bologna?" was the headline over a page two Times editorial on the paperís annual list of the world's top 200 seats of learning. Ignoring Milan's Bocconi and La Sapienza in Rome, it commented with a shudder that the world's oldest university, the only Italian institution left in the table and once "a renowned home to scholars of great distinction", had slipped to 192nd place - 78th in Europe - for quality of research, graduate employment rates and international visibility. In a word, all the things Bologna has provided for a thousand years.
A thousand but no more: what exactly has happened, Bologna? "Well, the Times is sending out warning signals to someone else", replies the university's rector, Pier Ugo Calzolai.
"We aren't the problem. We may have trouble balancing the books in 2010 but at least we're on the list. The problem is Italy, which doesn't invest enough in research and is destined to fall behind Asia". Political scientist Gianfranco Pasquino, who has been teaching at Bologna since 1969, acknowledges that "something is happening to this ageing university, ageing city and ageing country" while expressing doubts about the Times in London, which downgrades Italy and includes 29 British universities. "It surprises me not to see the Bocconi in the top 200".
The days of glossarists and pandectists are past. No more can we rest on the laurels of Copernicus, Borromeo, Carducci and Pascoli. Bologna is losing students and at some faculties - Veterinary Science - enrolments this year have fallen by 35%. Even Umberto Ecoís celebrated DAMS faculty of the arts, music and theatre is losing its appeal.
"It's one thing to look at ourselves and quite another to compare ourselves with others", says Professor Carlo Flamigni, a pioneer of in-vitro fertilization. "Bologna is still excellent, in Italian terms. But that is precisely the point. How stupid is a country that doesn't invest in research and condemns itself to exclusion from everything? Obviously, Bologna suffers from Italy's ills. Take the way researchers are selected. It's all very well for the son of a professor to want to be a professor but a rule that prevents this might be useful.
"And where else do researchers have to ask permission from a priest or a drugs company before they can do research? Who else has a national research council like ours with a cheap-skate funding policy that gives small amounts to everyone so as not to upset anyone? Itís pointless cronyism."
"Two big 'families' run the university of Bologna, the freemasons and Opus Dei. Without them, you don't get any money, any assistants or anything else. I've been here since 1960 and I've never been on a medical faculty committee, where the real power is and they hand out grants. Young people have worked this out and if they go abroad, they don't come back. Good for them. Abroad, they are working with the world's finest intellects. Here, they're in mouse-infested laboratories and they have to put up with it".
The Alma Mater is a bit too "Calma Mater". Professor Pasquino has two jobs in Bologna, one at the Bologna Center of John Hopkins University.
"The two institutes are only 200 meters apart but they're in two different worlds. If a power point presentation won't work, the Americans send me a technician in three minutes to sort it out. Here, I was lecturing this morning and the microphone wasn't working. Obviously, no one came to fix it. I told the students not to cough too much otherwise people at the back wouldn't be able to hear me".
"Hey Professore! How am I supposed to prove Einstein's theory of relativity with a pencil, candle, and a piece of cheese?
Unfortunately, young Italians only have the possibilities of finding unemployment, under-paid work, or emigration when they graduate from our Universities.
Exorbitant fees, incompetent and insufficient teaching staff, third-world study facilities. These are the typical complaints of our University students. It never occurs to them to put down the beers and sangria and revolt against the putrid and corrupt staff recruitment system which is only based formally on merit and plagiarized publications and decisively on favors given to relatives, lovers, friends, whores, friends of friends, and friends and lovers of whores.
In this sense even the most radical student groups are far from being as radical as they think to have any chance of bringing about the necessary changes. Why? Because they're just as corrupt! Their school training and indoctrination from an early age which includes learning how to cheat at exams as early as kindergarten influences them to accept their professor's unethical conduct, cheating and corruption as normal.
Then there's the wonderful world of "raccomandazioni".
The Italian term "raccomandazione" means recommending an unintelligent mule for preferential treatment on the basis of anything but merit.
Within the Italian university system, the power and importance of a professor can be measured by the number of conceited and unreasonable actions he can get away with. An Italian professor will playfully exhibit his power by giving undeserved top grades to an attractive female student or to a complete imbecile he feels sorry for. He will purposely award excessive marks to his own star student or to another student as a favor to someone else. Similarly he will punish a smart student with low marks simply because he doesn't like his ugly face or because he is aggravated or tired after spending time doing...nothing.
Italian professors are at their best and least dangerous when they are reading course textbooks to their students. On medical courses these tend to be authorized translations of reliable foreign (usually English) textbooks where they have not been plagiarized by the medical professors themselves.
Lookalike Annarita Ottonello, 29, staged a bank robbery in Genoa after running into money problems, say police.
But she was quickly caught, as she tried to escape by scooter, after police circulated the news that the bank had been robbed by an Angelina Jolie double.
A police spokesman said: "The resemblance was so uncanny that some witnesses actually thought it was the actress herself and that the robbery was part of a new Hollywood film.
"The woman had always thought that looking like Angelina Jolie was a bit of a bonus in her life because it attracted lots of men.
"Unfortunately in this particular instance it proved to be the worst possible thing for her - she was instantly recognizable.""Porca Miseria", and no make-up! What a breathtaking photo.
Heaven must be missing a stupid angel.
Escape by scooter? It doesn't make sense.
Where was the 'Lara Croft' outfit? Where were the jumps, the running, side-steps, hanging on ledges, roll overs, dives? If she had given the Italians a thrill they would have enjoyed it and gone along their merry way.
A bit of career advice, Annarita:
If you look like Angelina Jolie, attract many simpleminded and pointless Italian men, and live in a country where you can find priceless ancient artifacts by falling ass-backwards into a hole, something will come to you. Dress up like the 'Tomb Raider' and go roam around the Roman hills with a few grave diggers (tombaroli).
"Mignotta", the Pink Panther could have pulled off a better heist than you.
Milan - October 17, 2008 - Fresh from preventing Alitalia being taken over by the French and Dutch, the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is acting to ensure no other Italian company falls into foreign hands at the bargain prices available on the Milan stock exchange.
On Wednesday night, Berlusconi declared in Brussels that Consob, Italy's stock market regulator, and the treasury were working to change the rules. He said he had information on an influx of cash from sovereign funds, particularly those belonging to oil-producing countries.
The finance minister in Berlusconi's right-wing government, Giulio Tremonti, said amendments would be inserted into two decrees approved by the government and intended mainly to bolster Italy's banks. According to reports yesterday, the new measures would lower the 2% threshold at which equity holdings in a company have to be made public and suspend a rule that requires companies to get "poison pill" and other defenses approved in advance by a meeting of shareholders. Tremonti said the measures would be "within the European framework".
The government's initiative won it rare plaudits from trade unionists in a society where inward investment is widely regarded as a menace. Berlusconi made defense of the Italianitŗ (Italianness) of the economy a centerpiece of his successful campaign to be re-elected this year.
However, he testified that most of the selling on the Milan exchange had been by foreigners or their agents.
Berlusconi, by contrast, said he "had information from oil-producing countries, which have ample funds and are making huge acquisitions on our markets". He said: "First, I got information from journalistic sources in Arab countries. Then, I got confirmation from the oil-producing countries' governments themselves.
"Many Italian companies have a share price that does not correspond to their value, so there are excellent opportunities for those who may wish to make hostile bids."
Hmmm...Let's take a casual example. The heir to eggplants, Berlusconi, is particularly nervous of one Italian company falling into foreign hands; his own. His enormous TV empire, Mediaset, is at risk of a takeover bid. Recently, its value on the Milan Stock Exchange was 3.99 Euros a share. "Sta pippa", That's a 41.11% drop in less than a year!
"Porca di quella vacca", One has to ask why on the Sicilian earth would a foreign company want to invest in Italy?
Four reasons why investing in the 'Matrix' would be more sound than in Italy:
1. Bureaucracy. Italy has a gigantic and completely useless public administration. One of the real Roman tragedies of business life in Italy is that the authorities procedure for doing anything is inconceivable. It appears to love red tape and has invented official papers and stamps for every possible occasion and purpose known to man. Just finding the right office is more of a challenge than finding the Holy Grail and when you finally find it...it's closed (many offices open on a few days per week for a couple of hours only)!
"Merda", and then there's the documents!
You need documents to obtain the documents for the other documents and the laws governing the use of those documents are mysterious and beyond comprehension.
2. Unions. The structure and power of trade unions led to Italy's thick-headed, labor-market rigidity. The 1992 Concertazione agreements between unions, government, and business gave labor more negotiating power, which unions bluntly translated into, "You will never ever be fired!"
If you fire an employee you step into Dante's hell. You'll end up in court where the judge could oblige you to rehire a fired employee...all at your expense (including missed wages and legal fees, "cazzo")!
3. Underground Economy. Especially in the south, Italy maintains a sizeable underground, or 'black' economy. Workers in the black economy receive lower wages and no unemployment benefits, but they wouldn't dream about paying taxes. The estimated size of Italy's black economy is 27 to 30 percent of GNP.
The fulfilling life of a Southerner: It is easy to remain on the unemployment list, get your subsidy check, and work in the black market for life. Two salaries that translates to double the pleasure, double the fun.
4. Foreign Investment. Poor infrastructure, lazy labor productivity, and tender and affectionate Mafia organizations discourage any type of investment even pocket-change.